Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Madame Spy (1934)

Madame Spy (1934) with Fay Wray and Nils Asther
Original strapline: "The dazzling Career of an Adventuress!"
The screenplay was based on the novel Unter falsche Flagge by Max Kimmich.
It was remade by Universal in 1942 under the same name.

Maria (Fay Wray) is married to Captain Franck (Nils Asther) of German Intelligence. He does not know she is a Russian assigned to spy on him. When he is told to uncover a leak, he vows revenge on his wife. (IMDb)

1934 review by the New York Times:
It is a romantic melodrama which, notwithstanding that it is scarcely credible, succeeds in tickling one's fancy. If there be a weak spot Mr. Freund atones for it by his direction and his remarkable eye for camera angles. The story deals with a somewhat delicate situation in secret-service work during the World War, for a bride happens to be spying on her husband. She is a Russian and he a German, for the time being in Austria.

It is one of those cases in which truth and fiction are quite adroitly blended. Fay Wray acts Maria, a nurse, who soon after the narrative opens becomes the wife of Captain Franck, played by Nils Asther. Franck has assigned to him two Austrian spy experts, Captain Weber and Mr. Schulz, who are just as keen as the German on apprehending an agent referred to as B-24. Naturally, the audience is permitted to know that Maria is the mysterious espion, but this does not alter the fact that the tale is unwound with shrewdness and a certain suspense. Governmental departments may not sign their telegrams "Secret Service," but what of it? Maria is doing her utmost to help Russia and Franz is lending his brains to Germany and Austria.
Mr. Freund has evidently learned something about intelligence activities, for here and there one discovers an ingenious trick. One of the most interesting episodes takes place in Russia, and the persons involved are General Philipow, neatly acted by Noah Beery, Maria, and Franz, the latter having risked being backed up against a wall before a firing squad to see Maria, who had fled to her native heath.
There are some excellent war glimpses here, and at one moment the beautiful Maria is beheld crawling through the mud and mire of No Man's Land and finally reaching friendly trenches.

Miss Wray does well in her rôle and Mr. Asther is capable in his. Noah Beery is excellent as the elderly Russian roué, General Philipow. But the star of the picture is its director, Mr. Freund, who long ago made the camera talk without the aid of the microphone.

Fay Wray and Nils Asther

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